Borderlands 3 is not a very polished game. To its credit, developer Gearbox Software has been addressing the various glitches, bugs, and balance issues with hotfixes. These mini updates apply to the game directly — without the need to download them through the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, or what-have-you. However, the updates weren’t quick enough to save my favorite moment in the game so far. Instead, Borderlands 3 glitches ruined the game’s best boss fight.
[Spoilers for the Borderlands 3 main story to follow.]
Boss fights have admittedly never been the series’ strong suit, either. The original Borderlands bosses were infamously easy to cheese, even once you got to the DLC. Borderlands 2 improved on that problem… a bit. But the Borderlands 3 bosses aren’t better than that. Most of them are bullet sponges with one or two environmental hazards to dodge. If you’ve reached Mouthpiece, the first named boss in Borderlands 3, you’ve basically seen what the game has to offer on this front.
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That changes for the better about three quarters of the way through the game. In fact, I’d say the last act of Borderlands 3 comprises my favorite few hours of the campaign. It’s a little more earnest — a little less poop joke-y.
Up to that point, you go through most of the game battling lackeys of the Calypso Twins: the super-powered primary antagonists. I do not particularly like the Calyspo Twins. They’re like Handsome Jack divided in two, and less than the sum of their parts. They taunt you (poorly) from off-screen for 90 percent of Borderlands 3 without actually doing much. Then, when the plot remembers they need to feel like a threat, one teleports in to kill or maim a major character from the older games.
Handsome Jack did the same things in Borderlands 2 — like, the exact same things — but Gearbox was at least more committed to making him seem truly vile. I hated listening to him gloat, both in the way the studio intended and just because it went on and on and on… The Calypso Twins I just hate.
The Borderlands 3 Boss That Deserved Better Than a Glitch
Even so, the battle against Troy Calypso near the end of the game is the highlight of Borderlands 3. The second fiddle whips out warbling synthwave in a one-on-one showdown. The boss fight is a first-person bullet hell ballet, with Troy throwing balls of death in every direction. You need to duck, weave, and dodge to avoid them all. Sometimes that means keeping your distance; other times you have to crouch or jump. I can’t help but think it was inspired by Furi (one of my favorite games from 2016).
Playing as FL4K, a robot beastmaster that regenerates health as they move, this was perfect for me. I was in my element! The more I moved, the more I could recover lost vitality. When I stand still I get a damage bonus. I took advantage of it whenever Troy wound up a particularly big attack: like an overhead slam of elemental energy. That was the perfect time to heal my pet. See, whenever I deal damage as FL4K, I also heal their accompanying animal friend. The pet A.I. in Borderlands 3 is not good enough to dance around Troy’s bullets, leaving it up to me to top off my allied creature.
The constant motion, forcing me to actually think about where I stood, balancing damage with defense: the Troy Calypso fight is everything I want to see in a Borderlands 3 boss. There was even a somewhat interesting twist afterward, that drew one of my favorite characters in the game toward center stage. That’s why it was a real shame when the whole world fell out from under me.
“Swooping in!” pic.twitter.com/hTFE4uZDlR
— Steven Strom (@stevenstrom) September 19, 2019
I mean that literally. I killed Troy; the cutscene played; I fell through the world. I stayed that way for about three minutes before I finally figured there was no way to escape. While I wasn’t able to access my character menu (and thus couldn’t fast travel to a safe spot), I could at least save and quit. That didn’t “save” my loot. The vast majority of what Troy dropped — cash, Eridium, guns, and ammo — was lost to the ether. All I got were some guns saved by my Lost Loot Machine: a Borderlands 3 convenience that retrieves a limited number of items you miss during missions. Its inventory is something you need to grind to upgrade, however, so I only kept six. I don’t even know if they were guns Troy dropped, or other items I left before the battle.
I documented my fall from grace on Twitter. That’s where I learned I’m not the only one with this problem. Borderlands 3 players fall through the floor left and right after their battle with Troy. That super stinks. Besides losing the loot, it also undercuts pretty much the best battle of the game. Not one Borderlands 3 boss holds a candle thereafter.
It’s not just this boss, either. This is just my most potent example. Texture pop-in, a poor frame rate, menus that take multiple seconds to tab between: all these Borderlands 3 glitches add up. They undercut the smoothness of trying to “turn my brain off,” and just let the looter shooter cycle take over. I must admit, now that I’ve reached the endgame of Borderlands 3, I am enjoying that part of the game. The numbers get bigger and it feels rewarding — at least enough to tide me over till the next Destiny 2 expansion.
But the sad fact is that I won’t get to have this once-in-a-playthrough experience quite the same way ever again. By the time I reach it again — if I reach it again — on True Vault Hunter Mode, or another character, the egregious glitch might be fixed. Sure! But I’ll know what to expect and how to deal with it. It won’t be a surprisingly solid moment in a so-so game. It will just be another stone on a long grind that’s repetitive by design. I’m actually sorry Troy went out that way.